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Chapter: Civil - Municipal Solid Waste Management - Offsite Processing & Storage

Recovery of wastes

Recycling is perhaps the most widely recognised form of source reduction involving the pr ocess of separating, collecting, processing , marketing and ultimately using a material that would have otherwise been discarded.

Recovery of wastes  


Recycling   is   perhaps   the  most   widely  recognised   form of  source reduction involving the   pr ocess of separating,   collecting,   processing , marketing and ultimately using a material that would have otherwise been discarded. This form of source reduction, i.e., recyclin g, is similar to other forms, in that it:


lessens reliance on landfills and incinerators;

protects human health and the environment by removing harmful s ubstances from the waste stream;

conserves natural resources by reducing the demand for raw materials .

Recycling is  o ne of the  fundamental parts of the  waste management plan. Although  it  alone  cannot  solve  a community's municipal SWM pro blem,  it can divert   a   significant portio n of waste   stream from disposal   in landfill and combustion facilities. Recycling has a lot of direct and indirect significance f or the society, and this can be grouped under the following three broad areas. 


(i) Economic  significance: Economic  assessment of waste recycling is a difficult  task as  many  of  the  beneficial  environmental  and social  impacts of recyc ling are long- term and are intangible, and, therefore, are difficult to quantify.

Some of the short- and lon g-term economic benefits are:

Cost reduction: Resource  recovery through  recycling of solid  waste could be of interest to waste manag ement authorities as a means of reducing the w aste disposal cost. Any saving in waste management cost could be a significant incentive to the authorities to increase the coverage of service areas and improve the service level. They can  save cost  from  fuel  fo r  transportation, operation  and maintenance, and  generate revenue by sale of recyclables , etc.      

 Employment:  Recycling of waste is  a labour  intensive  activity,  and  its potential to  ease  the  unemployment  problem  is high.  Enhanced  recycl ing activities, for   example,   can   create   an   additional   job market for skilled and unskilled workforce,   and they can adapt  to  any  of the occupations such  as a labourer in recycling business or industry or a dealership.  Energy saving: Use of r ecyclables in some industrial processes is known to consume  less  energy than the use of any other raw material.  The reduction in energy consumption in one industry could mean its availability for some other indus try in need.

   Reduced  health  care  costs:  Improved  health  and  sanitary conditions in urban areas resulting from indirect benefits of waste recycling can reduce t he investment in public health programme.                  

   Saving   costs   for   other   public   utilities:   Enhanced solid Waste recycling practices can redu ce the  frequency  of  sewer  clogging, blocking of natural watercourses and pollution of water bod ies. This will  benefit the concerned public utilities through reduce d cost in cleaning sewers and improved public safety due to blocked sewers and narrowing of natural watercourses.           


(ii) Environmental and he alth significance: The volume of waste is increasing rapidly because of populatio n  growth and economic  development.  The composition Of waste is also changing,  leading to waste production with more recyclables. At the same time, polluted waste fraction s are increasing because of increasing complex processes being used in industries, and these contribute  increasingly to e nvironmental degradation. This notwithstan ding, recycling helps, among others, in the following ways, to facilitate effective waste management: be due to 

Improved  en vironment:  The  environmental  pollution  may inadequate SWM as well as due to its  effect on other urban infrastructure. Recycling reduces the  volu me of  waste  that has to  be  finally dumped, and thereby causing reduction  in pollutio n at the waste disposal  sites. When  there is reduction in volume of waste because of i ts increased reuse, different types of pollution (e .g., water, air and land) will get abated.

  Natural resource conservation: Industries with natural pro ducts as their raw  material  for  production  are  depleting natural resources. Use of more and more recyclable solid wastes in industrial production will relieve  the tremendous pressure  on these precious resources.  For example, recycling of waste paper means a lower demand for wood, which means less cutting of trees and an enhanced possibility for sustainable  use of the forest.  Using  recyclable items  in the production  process  would reduce the demand for energy as well.


(iii)   Social significance:  People  engaged  in  waste  collection a ctivities are normally of low social and e conomic standing. This is especially true wit h scavengers,  which  is  evident  from  persisting  poor  quality  of  their  living  and working conditions. Different  groups  of people  engaged  in waste recycling  have a hierarchical  social and economic status, in which, processors  are at the top of the hierarchy followed  by waste dealers  and  wholesalers,  waste  buyers  and  waste collectors  in  that  very  order,  while scavengers  are  at  the  bottom.  Although  there is  this  social  and  economic  hierarchy within  the waste recycling business, the overall social esteem of waste  recycling operators is low.


 A formal  recycling  arrangement  will  help  promote  the  social  esteem  of waste workers  and facilitate  their upward social mobility  due to increased  earning.  In addition, the improved recycling activity will increase the economic value of the waste and will reduce waste scavenging activity providing opportunity for scavengers to switch to a more socially acceptable  occupation.  In short, institutionalised recycling programmes will  help  remove the  stigma associated with waste scavenging and transform  it to an economic enterprise.

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